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BANGKOK (Reuters) – Asian stocks fell on Friday and oil prices moderated as investors weighed the likely global impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to AP.

Benchmarks fell more than 2% in Tokyo and Hong Kong and fell in most other Asian markets.

Russian forces gained ground, bombing Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and setting a fire early Friday as they continued their attack on a crucial Ukrainian energy-producing city.

But authorities said the fire was safely extinguished with no casualties. US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm tweeted that the reactors at the Zaporizhzhia power plant were protected by sturdy containment structures and were shut down safely.

China was preparing to open the annual session of its largely ceremonial legislature on Saturday, with the focus likely on boosting growth in the world’s second-largest economy.
Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index fell 2.2% to 25,985.47 while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 2.6% to 21,876.28. In Seoul, the Kospi fell 1.2% to 2,713.43.

The Shanghai Composite lost 1% to 3,447.65.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.6% to 7,119.80.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 fell 23.05 points to 4,363.49. The Dow slipped 0.3% to 33,794.66. The Nasdaq lost 214.07 points to 13,537.94.

Small company stocks also lost ground. The Russell 2000 Index fell 26.46 points, or 1.3%, to 2,032.41.

The pullback left indices on pace with weekly losses, as bond yields were mostly flat in the meantime. The 10-year Treasury yield slipped to 1.85% from 1.86% on Wednesday night.

Stocks rallied midweek after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said he favored a modest interest rate hike at a policy meeting later this month. That reassured investors who feared he would support more aggressive measures to fight inflation.

Powell warned on Thursday that the fighting in Ukraine is likely to further amplify the high inflation that is troubling global economies. Russia is a major oil producer and prices have risen as global supplies are threatened by the conflict, raising fears that persistent inflation could get even higher.

Powell said he is committed to doing whatever is necessary to slow inflation, pointing to the high-risk challenge of raising interest rates enough to cool price pressures without triggering another recession.

“For a world that was already struggling with worrying (cost-push) inflation before the invasion of Ukraine, soaring commodity prices due to geopolitical fallout are not just an inconvenience, but rather a threat. constraining economy,” Mizuho Bank said in a comment.

Early Friday, benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.34 to $109.01 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost $2.93 to $107.67 a barrel on Thursday.
Brent crude, the international price standard, added $1 to $111.46.

Trading on the Moscow Stock Exchange was expected to remain closed on Friday. The Russian ruble has lost around 5% against the US dollar and is worth less than 1 cent. It has plunged since Western governments imposed sanctions that cut off much of Russia’s access to the global financial system.

Investors will receive an update on the US labor market on Friday when the Department of Labor releases its report for February.
In currency trading, the US dollar bought 115.52 Japanese yen, down from 115.47 on Thursday. The euro weakened to $1.1018 from $1.1066.

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